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Meet the school custodian who has coached the chess team to the championships

Meet the coach champ!
Dave Bishop
Meet the coach champ!

Queen's Gambit? More like Bishop's Gambit! (That joke will make sense when you learn his name is Dave Bishop.)

Who is he? A generally cool dude, and lifelong chess lover.

  • Dave Bishop is a part-time chess coach at George B. Weatherbee School in Hampden, Me. as well as their custodian. He also coaches the nearby Reeds Brook Middle School team as well.
  • Earlier this year, his teams were both victors at the Maine Scholastic Chess Championships.
  • He picked the custodian job up in early retirement after spending his career working in telecommunications. And he spends hours with students every week, without receiving a dime.
  • What's the big deal? Aside from the fact that we're witnessing a Netflix original series manifesting itself in real time?

  • Dave is a great coach! He shares his love for the game, teaches the students perseverance, and has the star players to prove it.
  • This weekend, his team is headed to Baltimore, Md. for the 2023 National Elementary Championships.
  • One of Dave's mentees is 11-year-old Avery Zhang, who was crowned the state champion for grades K through 5 this year.
  • The scene is set at the National Elementary Championships in Baltimore, Md.
    / Dave Bishop
    Dave Bishop
    The scene is set at the National Elementary Championships in Baltimore, Md.

    Want more on people making a difference in kids' lives? Listen to Consider This talk to Dolly Parton about her new book that tackles bullying.

    Here's what Dave and Avery had to say.

    On what drew Dave into coaching chess:

    Well, it's the next step to being competitive. You're going from just a recreational or intramural club to actually being a competitive team. It's a very unique sport. There's a wide range of strength of players, so you're able to match up each player a lot better versus, say, basketball, when you just got one school against another school.

    Avery on Bishop as a teacher:

    He coaches us without even getting paid, so I think it's really amazing.

    He motivates lots of kids to join and have a chance to become a state champion.

    Bishop on teaching:

    What I like about coaching the kids is seeing them go from, say, the K-2 level to where Avery is right now. Avery, for instance, has grown so much that his rating strength is higher than any player over at the middle school. He has a passion for it, and that just proves my theory: If you really like something and stick with it, you're going to get better. And he's really taken it to the next level. He studies at night when he comes home. I see him as, like, a 1500 player by his sophomore year.

    And on what he hopes his students take away from him:

    There's a lot of metaphors with the sport of chess. It's that hard work really does pay off. If you study like Avery and you love what you do, you get a lot better, and you stick with it.

    So, what now?

  • Bishop's students will aim for greatness once again this weekend.
  • No word on whether any of the kids can project a massive upside-down chess board on the ceilings of their bedrooms.
  • Learn more:

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  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Corrected: May 12, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
    A previous version of this story misspelled the town of Hampden, Maine.
    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.